Copyright by Jim Jensen, YELM Earthworm & Castings
Farm, 1998, firstname.lastname@example.org. Permission granted
to copy or post with complete attribution in whole,
without addition, deletion, or substitution.
Ancient cultures revered worms for the valuable role
they play in the formation of rich agricultural soil.
Charles Darwin observed the activity of worms and
credited them with the fertility of farms the world
over. For decades, worm farmers and anglers have practiced
vermiculture in the pursuit of profit and recreation.
Recently, however, homeowners and recycling managers
have taken note of the potential of worms to help
manage our "wastes."
Feeding redworms is a good way to make high-quality
compost from vegetable and fruit scraps. Unlike garden
earthworms or nightcrawlers, redworms (known scientifically
as Eisenia fetida, or commonly as manure, striped,
or brandling worms) thrive on high-organic wastes.
The use of redworms for home composting has been
developing for many years and has been popularized
during the past decade. Home-scale worm composting
is widespread in the U.S. and Canada, and is supported
by many recycling agencies and the health department.
How to Do Worm Composting
Worm composting requires four basic items: redworms,
a worm bin, bedding for the worms to live in, and
food scraps. Redworms thrive in a rich organic environment,
with lots of decaying matter. They are capable of
ingesting as much as their body weight in wastes each
day. That means that for however much food scrap you
generate per day, youll need to grow a population
one to two time that weight of worms.
Researchers have found that redworms thrive in the
following optimum conditions:
temperature: 65 to 80 degrees F (15 to 25
moisture content: 60 to 80 percent (higher
than conventional composting)
oxygen: yes, the worm bed must be kept aerobic
pH: greater than 5 and less than 9
Two to three pounds of red worms will start most
home worm bins. For larger scale projects, plan to
start with one pound of redworms for every one to
three square feet of worm bin surface area.
Give your worms a comfortable home. A good worm bin
is a sturdy box with a heavy, tight-fitting lid to
keep pests out and moisture in. A worm bin can be
made from an old cupboard or packing crate, or built
with plywood and two-by-fours. A shallow box12
to 18 inches deepis best because the worms live
near the surface to get adequate air. Drill holes
in the bottom or otherwise provide for drainage. (An
idea for just trying it out: Recycle an old styrofoam
chest for worm composting by poking a few holes in
the sides for ventilation, and make sure that there
is never any standing water in the bottom of the chest.)
More on Home Composting